A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help protect your heart. Aim to eat beans, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, lean meats, and fish as part of a healthy diet. In addition, avoid too much salt and sugar in your diet.
If you smoke, you are twice as likely to have a heart attack as a nonsmoker and more likely to die if you do have a heart attack. The effects of quitting smoking are quite sudden. Your blood pressure will decrease, your circulation will improve, and your oxygen supply will increase. Previous research has shown that when you quit smoking, your health starts to improve within days.
Exercise for at least 30 minutes daily
Getting regular exercise can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, experts recommend getting at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. The key is to stay active—remember that activities such as taking the stairs, housekeeping, gardening, and walking the dog all count toward your total.
Get enough quality sleep
According to a recent statement from the American Heart Association, an irregular sleep pattern (one that varies from the seven- to nine-hour nightly norm) is linked to a host of cardiovascular risks. Short sleep — less than six hours per night — appears to be especially hazardous to your heart health. Sleep-deprived people have higher blood levels of stress hormones and substances that indicate inflammation, a key player in cardiovascular disease. Even a single night of insufficient sleep can perturb your system. People who don't get enough sleep have a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, and depression.
Get regular health screenings
Another way to make a difference is through regular health screenings. With a couple of simple tests and physical examinations, you can detect the early onset of some serious medical conditions. Regular screenings can tell you what your numbers are and whether you need to take action.
Blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends
keeping a record of your regular blood pressure readings.
Cholesterol levels. Keeping your cholesterol levels in check
is another great way to stay healthy and lower your risks for cardiovascular disease and
stroke. Simply put, cholesterol is a fat substance found in your blood and
cells that is produced by your liver.
Diabetes screening. Since diabetes is a risk factor for
developing cardiovascular disease, you may want to consider being screened for diabetes.
Talk to your doctor about when you should have a fasting blood sugar test or
hemoglobin A1C test to check for diabetes.
To see what our community is doing about this health priority, view our Community Health Improvement Plans through the links on the right.